Calls to end violence against women heard at 16 Days events across Afghanistan
KABUL - Calls to protect the rights of women, improve their education opportunities and end all violence against them framed discussions at UN-backed events across Afghanistan during the UN’s global campaign of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.
The countrywide campaign, culminating on 10 December, Human Rights Day, drew hundreds of religious leaders, civil society representatives, rights activists, legal professionals and government officials, who together voiced their support for the human rights of women.
Many participants called for investing in women’s education to address the main obstacles that hinder their full participation in Afghanistan’s social, political and economic life, while others focused on the importance of raising awareness across the nation about protecting women’s rights.
“Education empowers not only women, but the whole of society,” said Maryam Durrani, a women’s rights activist and one of the panellists in a programme aired by Hewad TV and Radio in the southern province of Kandahar. “A woman has to know her rights first before she can fight for them.”
In other events across Afghanistan, participants expressed similar views, citing ignorance and harmful traditional practices – which include child marriage, forced marriage, the giving away of girls to settle disputes, forced isolation in the home and ‘honour’ killings – as the primary barriers to the full empowerment of women.
During a televised programme in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern province of Nangarhar, participants said community awareness is crucial for addressing gender-based violence. “If men are taught that violence against women is a punishable crime, they will refrain from doing it,” said women’s rights activist Mastora Stanekzai.
In an event in the central province of Kapisa, participants also underscored the importance of community awareness in bringing about social change and improving the lives of women. According to Shakeba Saifi, director of Kapisa’s Department of Women’s Affairs, the province has seen a reduction in violence against women by as much as 40 per cent in the last two years.
“Public awareness has played a critical role in reducing gender-based violence,” said Saifi, who credited the role of religious scholars and other community leaders in coordinating awareness-raising activities.
Afghanistan has made strides in addressing women’s rights with legislation and in other areas, but much remains to be achieved as Afghan women continue face violence and discrimination. Many structural barriers – including poverty, inequality, illiteracy, harmful traditional practices and violent extremism – make women, especially those in remote provinces, especially susceptible to violence and abuse.
The UN maintains that alongside effective legal and institutional mechanisms for women’s access to justice, stopping violence against women requires an effort from everyone, not only acting but also speaking out against violence in homes, workplaces and social settings.
Events and activities in Afghanistan for the 16 Days of Activism campaign formally began on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. They were organized by UNAMA’s regional offices across the country and took place in Bamyan, Herat, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Kandahar, Kunar, Kunduz and Maydan Wardak.
Many of the events were recorded and broadcast by local media partners, altogether reaching audiences of hundreds of thousands of people across Afghanistan.
UNAMA continues to work with advocacy groups and institutions – including religious leaders, youth groups, women’s groups and local media outlets – to create platforms, using radio, social media and television, to enable Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.